The many faces of the McCharles House

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Tustin's McCharles House

Built at the end of the Victorian era, this Queen Anne house on C St. has served as a residence, a preschool and a tea room and is included in the Tustin Historical Survey for its unique style.
Photo courtesy of the McCharles House

The Queen Anne-style McCharles House shaded by gigantic eucalyptus trees at 335 C St. in Tustin has undergone and thrived with three personality changes during its more than 100 years of existence.

David L. McCharles, a carpenter and building contractor, built the two-story home for his family in 1885. His wife Florence taught at Tustin Grammar School during the years that J. J. Zeilian was principal. Later she was a housewife and mother to their son Carl Howard.

Active in the community, McCharles served as Tustin township justice from 1916 to 1919 and as justice of the peace in 1927.

After many years of being a family home, the house was transformed in1948 when Mary and Charles Strader acquired it. After they moved to Tustin from Irvine Ranch where Charles had worked for 17 years, Mary decided to open a preschool.

The first step was to put up a chain link fence to enclose the yard as a play area for the little ones. Next the second floor was declared off limits to children. With these protective measures, Miss Mary, as she was soon called, declared the Kiddyville Preschool to be open.

Child care facilities were in great demand at this time as mothers were continuing to work even though World War II was over and Tustin had few places catering to preschoolers. Miss Mary soon had a houseful of young children as well as older kids who came across the street to Kiddyville after they finished the day at Tustin Grammar School.

The Straders built a large addition to accommodate their growing business. Miss Mary was popular for the loving care she provided. It is said that she helped raise half the children in Tustin as well as her own two daughters, Mary and Jeannie.

Kiddyville preschool closed after some 30 years. Miss Mary, who had become a widow, met and married Frank Cerrone. The couple moved to Hemet to be closer to her daughters, and she recently passed away at age 98.

The McCharles House experienced another change on its 100th anniversary in 1985 when Audrey Heredia and her daughter Vivian bought it. Over the years they have transformed the utilitarian residence/preschool into a lovely tea room

Using their many skills, they have manicured the gardens and furnished the house in resplendent Victorian furnishings in addition to gaining a reputation for serving delightful luncheons and tea delicacies.

They too have found it necessary to expand the basic house by adding a summer house and courtyard as well as additional rooms. Known for both its lavish decor and sumptuous food, the McCharles House has become a center for cultural events, film and photo shoots, corporate retreats, conferences and meetings, parties, anniversaries, wine tastings, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, weddings and renewing of vows.

Despite the many changes, the house retains most of its original architectural character. Its unique Queen Anne style and remarkable condition won it a place in the City of Tustin Historical Survey in 1990.


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